Can’t Discount the Drama: Groupon Yanks Super Bowl Ads Amid Controversy

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A screenshot of Groupon's pulled ad depicting a deal on Tibetan food juxtaposed with the nation's oppression.

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The fallout from last weekend’s commercials was just too much for the first-time Super Bowl advertiser.

So Groupon has chosen to erase the evidence. The web coupon company has pulled its ads off the air, effective Thursday. After nearly a week’s worth of web chatter over what many viewers felt were tasteless ads that turned touchy subjects into punchlines, the young company is hoping to quiet the outcry.

(More on TIME.com: See the best and the worst of the 2011 Super Bowl ads.)

“Since we don’t see the point in continuing to anger people, we’re pulling the ads.” Groupon CEO Andrew Mason wrote on the Groupon blog in what he says is “one last post” about the Super Bowl controversy. “We hate that we offended people, and we’re very sorry that we did – it’s the last thing we wanted.”

But Groupon didn’t pull the plug without a fight. They’ve been embroiled in a battle to both explain and appease the offended parties. The ads, critics say, poked fun at environmental and political destruction across the world. Groupon says the message was meant to be a benevolent one – despite the discounts on whale-watching and Tibetan cuisine, they were planning donation campaigns to related charities.  Perhaps they could have promoted their humanitarian mission more than the half-off dining and “deforestation.”

(More on NewsFeed: And the Most Offensive Super Bowl Ad Goes To: Groupon?)

Whether you feel it was a super blunder or a slam-dunk ad campaign, Groupon wants to be clear that they weren’t trivializing tragedy. But is this just a nasty hangover – has the damage already been done to Groupon’s image? Or will this controversy, like their ads depicted, spin 360° to bring a good deal out of a dramatic situation?

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